(1992) Bon Jovi – Keep the Faith: Anniversary Special

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BON JOVI is probably THE most well-known American rock band ever, consistently putting out new music since 1984. While the quality of recent releases is not quite what it used to be – and personally I stopped following them after 2007’s “Lost Highway” – there is no denying that back in the day they were a great band with plenty to offer. To quote Dean Winchester from Supernatural, “Bon Jovi rocks… on occasion.” One of those occasions is undoubtedly the excellent “Keep the Faith,” which was released on November 3rd, 1992, on Mercury Records. Let’s see how it holds up, 3 decades later.     

Containing such hits as “Bed of Roses,” “In These Arms,” “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” and the title track, “Keep the Faith,” it is no surprise that BON JOVI’s fifth studio album was a smashing success, peaking at number five on the US Billboard 200 chart and being certified double-platinum by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). Produced by Bob Rock, this album represented not only a more serious and mature take on the band’s pop-meets-metal approach of earlier albums, but also the beginning of a new chapter in their rich and lengthy career. Leaving behind the feel-good vibe that characterized their ‘80s outputs, BON JOVI now decided to focus on reinventing both the sound and image of the band to keep up with the times, and the end result is still spectacular.

The main merit of this album (and its follow-up, 1995’s “These Days”) is that it revealed a band with more lyrical depth and sonic sophistication than seen previously. They were no longer boys playing at rock and roll, but men with something to say on the international hard rock scene, and lead single “Keep the Faith” was their anthem. A well-constructed and delivered track, it borders on being uplifting and hopeful, but manages to stray away from being cheesy or cliché in any way. And this idea pretty much defines the rest of the album, as the tracks never totally veer into platitude territory. Not even party songs “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” or “Blame it on the Love of Rock & Roll” – with their catchy chorus, poppy hooks, and simple drum beat – ever feel like afterthoughts or fillers, but fit well in the flow of the album, adding layers of melody to the soundscape.

Even ballads “Bed of Roses” and “In These Arms” feel more intentional than before (with the possible exception of “I’ll Be There for You”), offering emotive poetry, flowing verses, and textured instrumental parts. The band would go on later to release such staples of the rock scene as “Always” and “This Ain’t a Love Song,” demonstrating that they can do rock ballads/love songs as well as (if not better than) high-energy feel good songs. If bombastic “In These Arms” has an up-tempo melody to it and some cheeky lyrics, introspective “Bed of Roses” is its polar opposite, being a genuine and heartfelt ballad with an undertone of melancholy coming from the moody piano and wistful lyrics, superbly carried by Jon Bon Jovi’s passionate vocal delivery. At this point, I think GUNS ‘N’ ROSES are among the few that can stand toe-to-toe with BON JOVI when it comes to classic rock ballads.

We cannot talk about this album and not mention its central piece, the almost 10-minute epic, “Dry Country,” easily one of the best BON JOVI songs ever. The flow, build-up, and intensity of this track make it feel shorter than it actually is, while delivering a tale about the oil industry and its impact on a small town, especially when there’s no more oil in the soil and therefore, no more money to be made working there. The solo and guitar work should also be mentioned here as Richie Sambora proves his skills with the guitar, complemented by David Bryan’s lush keyboard and Alec John Such’s thick bass. After such a serious moment, tracks like “Woman in Love” and “Fear” are needed to lift the mood and balance the album. Closing the album on a very optimistic and uplifting note is “Little Bit of Soul,” where it feels like soul, blues, and hard rock met at the crossroads and jammed together. 

The only things better than this album are (1) its live counterpart Keep the Faith: An Evening with Bon Jovi,” where these songs and many others come to life beautifully in acoustic formats, courtesy of what was once a great music programmer, MTV; and (2) the follow-up “These Days.” Other than that, “Keep the Faith” was a real game-changer for BON JOVI, as they left behind their glam/hair metal roots in search of greener pastures of hard rock anthems and touching ballads. To this day, it remains an essential entry in the band’s discography and a staple of the grunge-ridden scene of the early ‘90s.

Written by Andrea Crow

Tracklist

1. I Believe
2. Keep the Faith
3. I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead
4. In These Arms
5. Bed of Roses
6. If I Was Your Mother
7. Dry County
8. Woman in Love
9. Fear
10. I Want You
11. Blame It on the Love of Rock & Roll
12. Little Bit of Soul

Lineup

Jon Bon Jovi – vocals

Richie Sambora – guitar

David Bryan – keyboard

Tico Torres – drums

Alec John Such – bass

Label

Mercury Records

Links

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